Before Stephen King - there Was Bernie: A Tribute to Mr. Wrightson
I woke up today (March 19) and found out that one of the greatest comic book artists to have ever trod upon this planet had died. A man who, I simply cannot stress enough, was a tremendous influence on me and my love of horror. I am talking about, of course, the fantastic, brilliant, amazing, astonishing Bernie Wrightson.
Here is one of the greatest interpretations of Frankenstein and his monster that you are ever going to see, anywhere, as drawn by Bernie for a comic book he did a long time ago. Look at the detail.
For me, as a twisted little kid who loved the scary stuff, he was a big influence. Before I read my first Stephen King novel, I knew Bernie. I may not have known his name, but I knew his work.
My dad was a comic book collector. By the time I came around, most of his super hero stuff had been thrown out or given away (I know - but that was how it was back then). However, he had a huge box of Erie, Creepy and other horror comics in the basement and hidden around the house. It wasn't long before I found them. It also wasn't long before I began searching and studying images from one particular artist. Years later, I would realize that artist was Bernie Wrightson.
Bernie became synonymous with horror. He did so many Creepy and Erie covers, it cannot be counted. He became an icon in the superhero world with his groundbreaking work on Swamp Thing along with writer Alan Moore. He also eventually worked with Stephen King by illustrating Cycle of the Werewolf and providing art for his unexpurgated version of The Stand. He also drew the graphic novel versions of Creepshow and Creepshow 2 with King.
I would stare at his work for the longest time. The detail he put in made even the gruesome beautiful. You could get lost in the little details that he put into each work. No matter how horrible the image, he lavished a love on it that turned it into something real. I loved it and that started me truly down the pathway to loving and, eventually, writing horror.
Bernie was around for a long time in horror, but he also had been battling a long time with brain cancer. This weekend, he finally lost that battle. I am so sad to hear that, since he was only 68, and probably had so much more to give. However, that's me being selfish, because if you do a simple search you see that there is already a mountain range of work he provided all of us.
If you are a fan of horror fiction and unfamiliar with Bernie, I suggest you get online and start looking. Seriously. I almost envy you, the discovery of his work, the gorgeousness of his lines, the life he put into each character. His amount of work is staggering and his artwork breathtaking.
The world is fuller because he was here, but emptier that he is gone. I am mourning this loss, but so very, very grateful that he was here.
Thank you for everything, Bernie. RIP. Sleep well, because you made so many of us not sleep so well - and I think that's fantastic.